Originally created 09/12/98

School bus wrecks drop to low in South Carolina



COLUMBIA -- The number of school bus wrecks in South Carolina has dropped to its lowest level since the Education Department began keeping records 20 years ago.

There were 598 accidents during the 1997-98 school year, the department said Friday. That compares with 1,075 wrecks during the 1986-87 school year.

"I think the improvement in reducing accident rates can be attributed to how seriously our bus drivers consider their responsibilities," state Education Superintendent Barbara Nielsen said.

South Carolina stopped using 16-year-old drivers in 1986 and stopped using 17-year-old drivers in 1987. The federal government began requiring a commercial driver's license for bus drivers in 1992, increasing the training and testing requirements.

More than 514,000 students ride buses each day, an increase of 100,000 in just the past four years. The number of miles driven increased from 64.9 million in 1986-87 to 72.7 million miles last year.

The number of bus routes dropped, however, from 5,963 in 1986-87 to 4,992 last year.

Newer and larger buses, better routing and staggered schedules allowed a reduction in the number of routes operated each day, the department said.